Sheer Madness (1983): Margarethe von Trotta’s Provocative Drama, Starring Hanna Schygulla

Written and directed by Margarethe von Trotta, one of Germany’s most prominent woman directors, Sheer Madness is a provocative drama about the relationship between two women.

The film was released in Germany as Heller Wahn, and in Europe as Friends and Husbands.

Olga (Schygulla) and Ruth (Angela Winkler) are friends, but they could not have been more different in personality and temperament.

Olga is independent, separated from her husband, living with an immigrant pianist, and teaching feminist literature.

Ruth is withdrawn, a painter, possibly mentally ill, as she dreams in black and white, sometimes of her suicide.

Olga lectures on a 19th-century writer, von Günderrode, a suicide after the breakup of her intense friendship with Bettina Brentano.

At first, Ruth’s husband Franz encourages the women’s friendship, but when the friendship deepens, he becomes jealous.

After the women travel to Egypt, Franz has a tirade, and Ruth is torn between her husband and her friend.